To get connected to one of the Croatian mobile networks, you can either purchase only a SIM or a SIM and phone together. You will also have to choose between Pay As You Go (prepaid system) or contracts.
Mobiles from all operators can be purchased directly from their stores, which can be found anywhere as Croatians are mobile-crazy! The stores are open long hours and there is usually someone who can speak English.
If you already own a phone, you can buy just the new SIM card. Remember that your phone might need to be unlocked first – even if you've used the same mobile provider in your home country as in Croatia. For example, if you have a T-Mobile phone from another country, it might not work with a Croatian T-Mobile phone.
If your phone is old, your operator can unlock it for you for free. Otherwise, small electronic shops offer this service.
To buy a SIM card, just step into any network shop, or order it online. You will be given the choice between contract and pay as you go. If you go to a shop, you can have your SIM card immediately, but they might ask for some ID.
SIM cards are very cheap, and can sometimes even be free if you ask for pay as you go.
Pay As You Go (PAYG)
Pay as you go is the simplest way of using a mobile, and is often the preferred method for expatriates staying for a short period of time. With PAYG, you only pay for what you use, although you should look at the actual connection costs.
You can recharge at some ATMs, directly with your operator or by purchasing top-up cards in most stores (tobacco stands, supermarkets, etc.). Tobacco stands selling top-ups are available everywhere in Croatia, even in the most remote villages.
If you opt for a mobile contract, you will not only have lower calling rates (quite significantly) but you will also benefit from reduced prices for phones.
The disadvantage of a contract is that you have a set period of time during which you must pay. If you wish to end your contract before that date, you will have to pay more (for the cost of the phone and for ending it prematurely).
The duration of the contract depends on which network you sign up with. T-Mobile provides 12-month and 24-month contracts, VIP and Tele2 offer 24-month contracts only. Usually, the longer the contract is, the more attractive the rates (and phone prices).
Contract offers vary significantly from operator to operator; look at their websites to compare.
Signing up for a contract plan requires some form of identification, an address and a bank account from which the money will be withdrawn automatically every month.